The Scholars of the Salaf have exhibited an outstanding role in foiling the plans of the enemies of Islaam - in all their different sects, and the varying doubts they propagate. And that, by which the Islaamic Aqeedah was put to trial with in its very first period was but the various madhaahib and new ideas which entered it by way of philosophy and theological rhetoric.
The Mu'tazilah played a big role in distorting the texts of the Sharee'ah from the Qur'aan and the Sunnah and plotting against the Scholars of the Salaf and attacking their honour. The most famous of such plots is the trial of Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal - may Allaah have mercy upon him - who remained firm in that trial and in refuting their doubts falsifying their falsehood - he and the other Scholars of the Salaf of this Ummah, such as Imaaam Bukhaaree, ad-Daarimee, Ibn Qutaibah, Ibn Mandah and others besides them.
And Abu Hasan al-Ash'ariyy in the first part of his life, used to be a Mu'taziliyy since he was brought up at the hands of Abu Alee al-Jubaa'ee the Shaikh of the Mu'tazilah of Basrah in his time.
And Allaah willed goodness for Abu Hasan al-Ash'ariyy and granted him success in taking from the Book and the Sunnah and abandoning the madhhab of the Mu'tazilah. Then he refuted the sophistry of the Mu'tazilah, exposed their falsehood, rendered futile their arguments with both textual evidence and by way of reason. His books testify to that. He then remained, for a period, speaking in certain matters of belief, with the saying of Ibn Kullaab. However, in the final stage of his life he was upon the aqeedah of the Salaf and he spoke with whatever Imaam Ahmad spoke with - may Allaah have mercy upon him - with respect to all the Attributes of Allaah. So he affirmed for Allaah whatever Allaah affirmed for himself and whatever His Messenger (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) affirmed for Him in his Sunnah.
The Book 'al-Ibaanah' - Abu Hasan al-Ash'aris Last Book
And this has been recorded in his book called Al-Ibaanah an Usool id-Diyaanah. However, those who ascribed themselves to the madhhab of Abu Hasan al-Ash'ariyy continued taking from the madhhab of Ibn Kullaab and passed it on to those who ascribed themselves to Abu Hasan al-Ash'ariyy, generation after generation. The truth, however, is what the scholars testify to, those in whose honesty, integrity and impartiality there is no doubt, that the aqeedah which Abu Hasan al'Ash'ariyy held and worshipped Allaah with, is the aqeedah which he has affirmed in his book Al-Ibaanah and that this was the last of his books in which the matter of his aqeedah was settled.
In the present time, many ascribe themselves to Abu Hasan al-Ash'ariyy and call themselves Ash'ariyyah, claiming that they are holding fast to the aqeedah he was upon, especially in the matters of the Attributes of Allaah. However, the truth is that they have not taken the aqeedah that he embraced at the end of his life and which is propounded in his two books al-Ibaanah an Usool id-Diyaanah and al-Maqaalaat ul-Islaamiyyeen.
What is more strange, however is their claim that Abu Hasan al-Ash'ariyy wrote his book al-Ibaanah out of taqiyyah (deception) and as an attempt to outwit the Hanbalees, fearing them, for his life. It is well known that taqiyah is but nifaaq (hypocrisy) and this blameworthy characteristic is something the common Muslim seeks to be free from, then how about a Muslim scholar?
And since this slander was an oppression against him and a clear forgery against him, a number of scholars, known to be possessors of knowledge and piety embarked upon explaining the truth. So they exposed the falsehood of those lies and slanders against this esteemed scholar and explained that taqiyah and nifaaq are not the characteristics of the scholars and that Abu Hasan al-Ash'ariyy is far removed from that.
And everything that has come in his books al-Ibaanah and al-Maqaalaat is what he believes and worships Allaah with. He said, in al-Maqaalaat: "And with everything that they [i.e. the Ahl ul-Hadeeth] spoke with, we speak with and go towards it."
He also said in al-Maqaalaat: "The summarisation of that which the People of Hadeeth and Sunnah are upon..." and then he lists that which they were upon including therein:
"And that Allaah the Sublime and Exalted is upon His Throne just as He has said:
Ar-Rahmaan has ascended (istawaa) the Throne" [Soorah Taa Haa 20:5]
"And that He has two Hands, without asking how, just as He has said:
I created you with My (Two) Hands [Soorah Taa Haa 20:75]
and as He has said:
But [both] His Hands are outstretched" [Soorah Maa'idah 5:64]
"And they affirm both Hearing and Seeing for Him and they do not negate that from Allaah as the Mu'tazilah have negated it."